Conversations with an Artist: Adrienne Rogers
Thanks to a friend who introduced us to Adrienne Rogers, we are now carrying Adrienne's stunning textiles. They wrap you in comfort in the most artful, sophisticated and luxurious ways. The artist states, “What drives my designs and choice of materials is the ultimate texture that can be created using such basic tools as needles and a single, continuous thread.” And what she does with the materials and tools results in truly artful textiles. We are thrilled to have a collection at Poet and/the Bench.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
I’m not sure if there was a particular moment, but what I can say is that when it comes to textiles and yarn or fiber, I’ve had my hands and my head immersed since I was a child. My mother is a weaver and she taught me spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting. Although I enjoyed them all, knitting resonated. Simple tools, a continuous thread, variations on a couple of stitches and endless combinations–the sense of possibility has always intrigued me! When I look at yarn or fiber, I envision what could be. It’s a natural conversation.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
I delve into questions of pathways, connection, continuity, accessibility and beauty through the creation of dynamic soft sculptures. I experiment with materials, surface and form incorporating knitting and felting. The lineage and traditions of fiber as a language passed down through generations is an important part of my story.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your craft.
The materials are one of the driving forces behind my work. Through them I try to communicate the rhythms and textures of the environments that are a part of my life, whether urban or in nature. A yarn or fiber has inherent characteristics. I often live with it for a while both passively and actively until I know what I’d like to do with it. I believe part of my role is to create a vehicle that will show the materials in their best light, highlighting what makes a particular fiber what it is. This might be a rhythmic pattern drawn from nature, like the surface of water that catches the light off of the fiber to create shadow, depth and a sense of motion, or a more structured pattern that has architectural qualities emphasizing a well articulated twist in the yarn.
How has your work developed over time?
I started knitting when I was around eight years old. Through my teen years I primarily made sweaters. I’d look through fashion magazines and gain inspiration from what was on the pages, attempting to create something like it for myself with varying degrees of success. Gradually I moved from the functional to the visceral, approaching the work in a completely different way – as soft sculpture. I saw possibility in pushing texture by increasing the scale of my work. The results were the creation of surfaces and ephemeral moments rooted in nature.
I started experimenting with felting and paper-making as well. Felting provided an alternative way to view and interact with fiber. There are two basic methods of felting, the difference being the form of the materials you use and how you the materials.
The first method I describe as painting with fiber. Roving or bundles of fiber are layered at the discretion of the artist and then felted together by wetting the fibers and agitating them or rubbing them together until they form a solid piece of fabric. This method, called wet felting, is the oldest felting method known to man. It’s an incredibly physical way of interacting with the fiber and requires a lot of manual effort. Both large scale hand-knitting and wet felting are full-scale immersion processes for me, but the fundamental characteristics are similar in the sense that they both rely on simple tools and actions but offer complex results. I’m inspired by the freedom and serendipity
The second felting method involves knitting a piece of fabric by hand or with a knitting loom and then felting the fabric, resulting in soft and somewhat uniformly textured surfaces. This is akin to accidentally shrinking a favorite sweater, although it’s an intentional action.
I continue to use both methods of felting.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My knitting needles! I can knit with anything that presents as a continuous thread, but I need my needles to do it.
Do you collect anything?
Yarn and some might say shoes. I’m addicted to yarn. There are some yarns that I have that are so beautiful on their cones or tied into skeins and I can’t imagine ever changing that presentation in any way. They look like sculptures and I experience them as such. The yarns I choose to work with are extraordinarily beautiful in their color and texture and I can’t wait to make them into something. My hands can’t keep up with my head so I try to remain patient.
I also have a thing for shoes. Shoes reflect a mood or are aspirational. They’re great pieces of sculpture.
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
I watched a presentation by the artist Sue Lawty. It was incredible. She’s an artist whose engagement with the landscape is translated into the most beautiful, rhythmic, unique and thoughtful woven tapestries and stones paintings. The pieces employ a subtle use of color with unique materials and construction. I find her work to be calm, moving and mesmerizing.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Trust yourself. It doesn’t necessarily make sense but maybe it doesn’t have to.
What role has music played for you during COVID or while you work?
Music is so multifaceted. It completely stimulates and energizes me to the point of distraction. I don’t tend to listen to it when I work. I need to be in a quiet environment.
Fundamentally, music is significant for me. I studied music for many years and played the piano, flute and clarinet. I like layers that allow me to isolate instruments as I listen to their individual voices and I’m also fascinated by what’s created when sounds are grouped together, creating a whole.
I listen to a variety of genres depending on my mood, where I am and what the occasion is asking for. In broad strokes I like blues, R & B, rock and jazz. It’s difficult to name a few artists that I truly enjoy. There are so many greats.
Note on materials from Adrienne:
All of the yarns used for the pieces at Poet and/the Bench were sourced from an incredible woolen mill in Japan. The mountainous location of this mill is toward the north central part of Japan, in a valley. It’s quite isolated and when I order yarn, they always preface the shipment time with the fact that it takes a day for it to get out to a major town or city before being picked up by the carrier.
The owner, who represents the fourth generation, is a dynamic, hands on, creative individual. He continues to run and evolve the business, balancing nature, craftsmanship and technology. The mill utilizes the combined decades of experience from start to finish – when choosing the best raw materials and when dyeing and spinning the fibers to produce soft, refined yarns of superior quality. Because of the isolated location of the mill, not only is the ownership generational but they employ and sustain most of the village. Experience at every level has been handed down and shared.
Above, I wrote about the significance of pathways, connection, continuity, accessibility and beauty. In my own life and work, I’m always aware of where I came from and the influences that were, and are, directly connected to me. I also look for those connections within the mills that I work with. Where I source materials from is very important to me. Traditions, craftsmanship, refinement, luxury and accessibility are the key ingredients that I want to put into my heirloom quality pieces.